Do you feel like you have enough hours in the day to get everything done? Do you finish your entire "to do" list everyday? If you answered "no" to these questions, you aren't alone. Most people wish for more time, so I want to share some simple strategies that have helped my clients (and me) take back their time and manufacture more hours in their day.
Time management is about being effective, NOT just efficient. It's not about doing MORE, but getting better RESULTS. Most people have heard of goals and know their importance for success and this is actually the first key in effective time management - you need to become really clear about your goals. The more clear you are, the faster you will accomplish your goals. So let's look at how to goal set and, most importantly, how to create a plan to attain goals as an entrepreneur.
7 Steps to Goal Setting
1. Decide – success in life begins with you deciding exactly who you are, what you want, and who you aspire to be.
2. Write – write down your goal. Why is it important for us to have written goals? One of the most crucial things in goal-setting is writing them down. You become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis. It has been proven time and again that people who write down their goals accomplish significantly more than those who do not write their goals.
3. Date – give yourself deadlines. This creates urgency and accountability.
4. List – list all the step or actions that you need to do in order to achieve that goal.
5. Prioritize – which of these items is the most important? It’s the one that will make the most impact in moving you toward your goal. It is also likely the one you are looking at with dread.
6. Start – just get started. Do something every day to move you toward your major goal – whatever it is. Small incremental steps every day lead to major shifts over time…and it gets easier as you start to see the little wins and progress along the way.
7. Eat That Frog – many times, we fear or worry about a difficult or ugly task. That’s your frog. Don’t cower from it. Do it first. This generates an enormous boost in your self-esteem and creates ongoing momentum. When you “eat your frog,” you feel empowered, happier, energized and are more productive, i.e., you get more done.
Using the 80/20 Rule
Next, you need to prioritize on the things that are important. Focus on the things that will actually get you results. You have likely heard of the 80/20 rule, or Pareto's Principle. The 80/20 principle states that 20% of what you do will account for 80% of the value of all the things you do. If you have a list of ten items to work on at the beginning of the day, two of those items will usually be more valuable and important than all the others put together. Your job is therefore to determine the top 20% of tasks before you begin.
The starting point of setting priorities and effective time management, is to apply the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Rule, to every part of your life and work. Before you start doing anything, you always ask, “Is what I am about to do among the top 20% of activities that account for 80% of the value of everything I do?” Every hour of every day you should apply this principle to your work. Take time to think before you act, and then concentrate on the 20% of the tasks and activities that represent the highest payoff for you and your company.
The ABCDE Method
The ABCDE Method is another powerful priority setting technique that you can use every single day. The power of this technique lies in its simplicity.
Here’s how it works: You start with a list of everything you have to do for the coming day. Think on paper in your journal. You then place an A, B, C, D or E before each item on your list before you begin the first task.
"A" item is defined as something that you must do, it is very urgent and important or important. This is a task for which there can be serious consequences if you do it or fail to do it, like visiting a key customer or finishing a report for your boss that she needs for an upcoming board meeting. If you have more than one "A" task, you prioritize these tasks by writing A-1, A-2, A-3, and so on in front of each item. Your A-1 task is your biggest of all.
"B" item is defined as a task that you should do, its urgent but not important. It may only have mild short-term consequences. This means that someone may be unhappy or inconvenienced if you don't do it, but it is nowhere as important as an "A" task. Returning an unimportant telephone message or reviewing your email would be a "B" task. The rule is that you should never do a "B" task when there is any "A" task left undone.
"C" item is defined as something that would be nice to do, but for which there are no consequences at all, whether you do it or not. "C" tasks include phoning a friend, having coffee or lunch with a co-worker or completing some personal business during work hours. This sort of activity has no affect at all on your work life. These tasks are not urgent and not important to the organization or your success.
"D" item is defined as something you can delegate to someone else. The rule is that you should (if able) delegate everything that anyone else can do so that you can free up more time for the "A" tasks that only you can do. Another example of thought might be to try only to do tasks that are commensurate with your dollar per hour value ie. do not do or waste time on $10/hr tasks when you should be doing the $50/hr tasks.
"E" item is defined as something that you can eliminate altogether and it won't make any real difference. This may be a task that was important at one time but which is no longer relevant to yourself or anyone else. Often it is something you continue to do out of habit or because you enjoy it – games on your phone or scrolling social media often fall here.
Your ability to think through, analyze your work list and determine your "A-1" task then disciplining yourself to start immediately will make you far more productive than you could have imagined. By getting more of the right things done, you will achieve higher levels of accomplishment, and greater self-esteem, self-respect and personal pride.
I've given you a few simple tools to help you become better at managing your time, but now it's up to you. Here are 5 ways you can take action today to manufacture more time in your day.
1. Commit today that you are going to become excellent at thinking through and working exclusively on your top priority tasks. Never allow exceptions until this becomes a habit.
2. Apply the 80/20 Rule to every part of your business and personal life; identify the top 20% of activities, customers, products, services and tasks that account for 80% of the value, and focus on them before anything else.
3. Make a list of activities each day before you begin, and set careful priorities on your list. Divide the items by applying the ABCDE Method to each one before starting. Always work on you’re A-1 tasks first. Then DO IT NOW & don’t procrastinate!!! Find a way to more yourself forward.
4. Delegate with thought, effectively – the right task to the right person at the right level of independence.
5. Every hour of every day, ask yourself, “What is the most valuable use of my time, right now?” Whatever the answer, be sure that you are working on that task, the one that can make a greater difference than anything else.
Choose one of the tools I mentioned above and start using it every day. It will feel hard, cumbersome, and uncomfortable at first. That's okay! You are building a new habit of being more efficient. Stay with it and commit to being less "busy"!